How to Travel from Sacramento to San Francisco by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

The lovely Victorians of SF

Victoria Semenjak / EyeEm; Getty Images

Sacramento and San Francisco are only 87 miles apart, making it easy to get from one city to the other via train, bus, or car.

Driving or taking a bus are the most affordable options for traveling between the two cities (bus tickets can run as low as $4.99 one-way if you plan ahead). While driving is more convenient, buses provide free WiFi and the opportunity to sit back and relax. Taking the train down from Sacramento to SF is especially pleasant, though it's substantially more than the price of a bus ticket. Still, if you have the means, it's worth a splurge.

While flying between the two cities is also an option, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you factor in the time it takes to travel to and from the airports, check in, and wait for your luggage at baggage claim. It can also be rather pricey.

How to Get from Sacramento to San Francisco
  Time Cost Best For
Train 2 hours, 25 minutes from $31 Traveling comfortably
Plane 59 minutes from $64  
Bus 2 hours, 20 minutes from $5 Traveling on a budget
Car 1 hour, 36 minutes 87.9 miles (141.4 kilometers) Arriving on a time crunch; exploring the Bay Area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Sacramento to San Francisco?

Buses are the cheapest way to get to San Francisco from Sacramento, with departures running throughout the day. Greyhound buses run from the Sacramento Bus Station to downtown SF for about $8 one way. Other providers include Megabus and FlixBus, both of which arrive at the SF's Caltrain Station; from there, you can catch the Muni transit to Union Square. Tickets run as low as $4.99, and most buses include WiFi, onboard charging outlets, a restroom, and reclining seats. Bring snacks for the journey, which typically lasts 2 to 2.5 hours, but can vary according to traffic.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Sacramento to San Francisco?

It takes about 1.5 hours to drive the 87 miles between Sacramento and San Francisco. The quickest route is to take I-80W, which crosses into SF via the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge. This is the most convenient form of travel for getting exactly where you want to go. However, there's not much scenery along I-80 W, and traffic can be especially heavy when approaching Berkeley and driving across the bridge.

There is a second, more scenic drive, which branches off from I-80 at CA37 W to Highway 101 S, and enters San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's just a few miles further and provides an opportunity for a Sonoma or Napa Wine Country detour.

Be aware that parking can be a nightmare in SF. If you do not plan to explore the rest of the Bay Area, you may prefer to take the bus or train into the city and use public transportation instead.

How Long Is the Flight?

Flying between the two cities only makes sense if you have a connecting flight at SFO. A direct flight takes about 1 hour, but when you factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, check in, and go through security, it can take twice as long. Flying is also considerably more expensive than any other form of transport.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

Amtrak's Capital Corridor runs trains from Sacramento to San Francisco in 2 hours, 25 minutes, with trains coming close to hourly on weekdays and every couple of hours on weekends. The train offers restrooms, charging outlets, complimentary WiFi, and even a café car. There are bike racks and dedicated bicycle cars for bringing aboard your two-wheels as well.

When riding the train, you have a few options with regard to where you want to be dropped off. You can take the train directly from Sacramento Valley Station to Emeryville (just across the bridge from San Francisco), and transfer to a San Francisco-bound bus. Or, you can get off at either Richmond or Oakland Coliseum, then transfer to a BART train (though you will need a separate ticket or a Clipper card to board). Another option is to take the train to Oakland's Jack London Square Station and then hop on the San Francisco Bay Ferry. It disembarks at SF's popular Ferry Building.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

If you have a connecting flight at SFO and your layover is 4 hours or longer, consider taking the BART into the city; it will take you from SFO to the Mission District (16th and Mission stop) in about 24 minutes. Here, you can grab a burrito and do a bit of window shopping along Valencia Street. About 5 minutes more and you'll reach Union Square. Remember to factor in the time it'll take you to return to the airport and go back through security.

What Is There to Do in San Francisco?

There's so much to see and do in this bayside city, whether it's riding a bicycle along the Marina Green and into the Presidio for incredible views of both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, or basking in the beauty of the Painted Ladies bordering Alamo Square. Other options include sampling dim sum in Chinatown, browsing the incredible selection of new releases and paperbacks at North Beach's legendary City Lights Books, or giving science a go at the Exploratorium. Parks such as Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park are perfect places to while away an afternoon, though if it's culture you're after, step inside one of SF's many world-class museums, including the Legion of Honor, Asian Art Museum, and SFMOMA. Neighborhoods such as the Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, and the Mission are ripe for exploring, but to truly immerse yourself in the tourist vibe, Fisherman's Wharf is a must.

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